The legendary gelding was inducted into the NWRCHA Hall of Fame in 2009.
Boots Valentine, a 1983 sorrel gelding, was born on March 1 to owner Lori Kay Taylor and her mom, Sally, who were living at the time in Cottonwood, California.
“Boots’” dam, Beauty Valentine, a Leo Bar-bred mare, was a well-known cow horse herself in the Northwest. Boots’ sire, legendary Major Bonanza, a versatile halter and performance horse champion, had just retired from the show ring when Boots was born. Major Bonanza’s lineage included the American Quarter Horse Association founding bloodlines of Joe Hancock and King. Major Bonanza boasted a world championship in working cow horse, as well as AQHA Superior awards in halter and western pleasure.
Boots’ life started out a little rough. At 5 weeks old, Boots lost all his hair and had to be bathed every day. Boots was very timid and Sally and Lori called him “the Cowardly Lion.”
As a 2-year-old, Sally tried to sell Boots to Gary Baldwin for $2,000, but Gary passed on the offer, because he said Boots had an ugly head. Gary would regret those words, even though the next four years of Boots’ life were spent ranch riding. Arena work was out of the question because Boots was so timid.
In 1990, when Boots was 7 years old, Steve Metcalf, a Northwest trainer, convinced Sally to lease Boots to a young rider in his barn, Matt McAuslan, who needed a horse to compete on and qualify for the American Junior Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show (now known as the American Quarter Horse Youth Association). Having never officially worked a cow before, Boots qualified with Matt in the saddle not only in working cow horse, but in reining, as well. The duo stunned everyone by receiving fourth place in reining and besting over 40 riders in the cow horse class. En route to the working cow horse world title, the duo marked a 440, the highest score ever recorded at an AJQHA World Show.
Knowing that Boots Valentine was on a roll, Steve, who had also qualified Boots for the AQHA World Championship Show, hauled the gelding to Oklahoma City three months later and proceeded to ride Boots to another world championship. Steve Metcalf remembers Boots as being a good follower.
“He was very willing to please. Once he got his confidence, he was always willing,” Steve recalls.
An amateur rider, Joy Soriano, who also rode with Steve Metcalf, set her sights on the newly-crowned, two-time world champion and purchased Boots for herself. Steve and Joy quickly qualified Boots for the 1991 AQHA World Show. Along the way, Boots achieved both his open and amateur AQHA Performance Register of Merits. By November 1991, Joy and Boots would go on to place third at the World Show in amateur reining and become the reserve world champions in amateur working cow horse. Later that next week, Steve and Boots would earn third place in senior working cow horse and chalk up another world championship title in senior reining. Boots had won three world and one reserve world championship in just over a year.
Steve won the buckle that day, but Joy also owned the horse that was reserve world champion, Sports Holly Golly.
In 1992, Joy and Boots continued with much success, showing Boots all over the western United States. His numerous awards included Arizona Sun Country Circuit championships and Northwest Congress championships. Back at the World Show in 1992, Joy and Boots were ninth in amateur reining and again reserve world champions in amateur working cow horse.
Joy and Steve both stated that the reason Boots circled up so great was because he knew the cow work was almost over and he just wanted to be done with it.
In 1994, Steve Metcalf and Boots won the Arizona Sun Circuit working cow horse championship, and followed that with a year-long string of successes that eventually led to an AQHA Superior in reining and the 1994 AQHA year-end high-point reining and senior reining titles. Boots finished his AQHA career in 1995 with third place in the AQHA high-point amateur reining race; a top 10 placing in senior reining at the World Show; a National Reining Horse Association bronze in non-pro reining at the West Coast Equine Spectacular in Reno, Nevada; an AQHA Superior in amateur reining; and lifetime AQHA earnings totaling more than $10,000. Later, Boots received a certificate of merit in Category 1 for lifetime achievements for winning more than $3,000 in NRHA winnings and $1,100 in NRCHA winnings.
Boots Valentine died unexpectedly in May 1996. Yet the cow horse’s memory remains. Joy remembers Boots as an exceptional athlete.
She said, “He was big in the show pen, but he was a real baby. He was always hungry and looking in your pockets, for treats; he’d eat your cell phone, if he could.”
Boots Valentine is immortalized at the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum on the Walk of Fame in Amarillo, Texas.
*Boots Valentine was inducted into the NWRCHA Hall of Fame in 2009.